Sam Bankman-Fried Can't Subpoena Law Firm Fenwick & West for Documents, U.S. Judge Rules

The founder of collapsed crypto enterprise FTX had argued legal advice from the Silicon Valley law firm was "at the core" of the government's criminal allegations against him.

AccessTimeIconJun 23, 2023 at 4:13 p.m. UTC

A U.S. judge has shot down FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried's attempt to subpoena law firm Fenwick & West as part of his criminal defense, a court order from Friday shows.

The founder of crypto enterprise FTX – who now faces criminal charges from U.S. prosecutors over the dramatic collapse of the exchange while it undergoes separate bankruptcy procedures in Delaware – argued in a May court filing that he'd relied on advice from the Silicon Valley law firm "on many of the issues that are now at the core" of the U.S. government's allegations against him. Bankman-Fried cited the opening of a North Dimension bank account and the use of auto-deleting Signal messages as examples of the legal advice he'd heeded.

Bankman-Fried sought to compel U.S. prosecutors to hand over documents given to the government by the law firm, or failing that, seek a court order to subpoena Fenwick & West LLP for the same documents.

New York District Court Judge Lewis A. Kaplan on Friday denied Bankman-Fried's request saying neither Fenwick & West nor the FTX Debtors are part of the “prosecution team.” The government "has no obligation to produce materials that are not within its possession, custody, or control," the order added.

"Furthermore, the defendant’s proposed subpoena, if enforced, would serve as a fishing expedition and does not meet the specificity, relevance, and admissibility requirements," set by precedents such as the 1974 U.S. case against former President Richard Nixon, which famously decided a president cannot shield himself from producing evidence in a criminal prosecution because of executive privilege.

Fenwick & West has sought legal help from Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher to face scrutiny over its relationship with FTX, Reuters reported Wednesday.

Bankman-Fried's criminal trial is set to begin later this year.

Jack Schickler contributed reporting.

Edited by Nikhilesh De.


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